Irish-bred and mostly French raced Loup Breton, whose stretch run fell a neck short in the San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) as the favorite last month, appears to be the one to beat in the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) Jan. 18 at 1 1/4 miles on turf.
The San Marcos, which drew a field of nine and is scheduled as the seventh race, highlights a special Martin Luther King Jr. holiday card of nine races that gets underway at 12:30 p.m. PST.
Even though the field of nine includes a 2008 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Muhannak, Loup Breton would appear to rate prime consideration in terms of overall class.
Wildenstein Stable’s 6-year-old bay overcame a poor start in his U.S. debut for trainer Julio Canani on Nov. 19 at Hollywood Park when charging from far behind to take an allowance event at 1 1/8 miles on turf under jockey Garrett Gomez. In the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel, Loup Breton was running fastest of all at the wire when just failing to overhaul victorious Proudinsky with Gomez back in the irons.
Gomez, who recently won his fourth consecutive North American purse earnings title, will be back aboard in an effort to provide Canani with his first San Marcos victory since he saddled Putting in 1990.
While based in France, Loup Breton faced many of Europe’s stellar campaigners including such standouts as Goldikova, Duke of Marmalade, and Never On Sunday. His victories included the group III Prix Daphnis at Longchamp in 2007 and the group II Prix d’Harcourt at Longchamp in 2008. Last year, he was a close second to Vision d’Etat in the group I Prix Ganay at Longchamp.
Loup Breton, by Anabaa, out of the Irish River mare Louve, comes into the San Marcos with earnings of $587,614 from an overall record of 4-4-2 from 20 starts. He breaks from post 1.
Irish-bred Muhannak, a 6-year-old Chester House gelding, failed to duplicate his 2008 showing in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon when finishing a distant fifth in last November’s renewal at Santa Anita.
After being based in England, he was subsequently turned over to the care of Santa Anita-based trainer Ben Cecil, who will return the marathoner to a grass surface. Martin Pedroza will ride Muhannak, who is winless in eight starts since his Breeders’ Cup success. A winner of two of 10 on grass, Muhannak’s overall record is 7-1-2 in 23 starts for earnings of $437,371.
Also in with a chance is a third Irish-bred contender, High Court Drama, a 5-year-old horse by 1987 male turf champion Theatrical.
High Court Drama won an optional claiming race on Hollywood Park’s turf course in his U.S. debut last Nov. 15, followed by a second in the Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) on Cushion Track Dec. 12. Trained by Doug O’Neill for Chris McHale, High Court Drama has a 3-4-1 record from 12 starts, with earnings of $111,039.
“I think he has a great chance either way,” said jockey Michael Baze, who draws the mount again. “He’s a very nice horse to ride, very easy to ride. You just put him in a stalking position and he gives you a good effort. He can handle the turf, the synthetic, just whatever you want him to do. I really love his chances.”
$150,000 San Marcos (gr. IIT, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Loup Breton (IRE), G K Gomez, 115, J C Canani
2. Muhannak (IRE), M A Pedroza, 115, B D Cecil
3. Dynamic Range (KY), V Espinoza, 117, J C Canani
4. Riviera Cocktail (KY), J Rosario, 115, N D Drysdale
5. Zappa (KY), M E Smith, 115, J W Sadler
6. Porfido (CHI), J Talamo, 115, H Ascanio
7. Pearl Fisher (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 115, N French
8. High Court Drama (IRE), M C Baze, 115, D F O'Neill
9. Aggie Engineer (KY), A O Solis, 115, P Gallagher